THE IRON INDUSTRY.
gians especially have taken an active part in the iron industry, and out of a total of 55 blast furnaces in South Russia,, 21 are operated by Belgian capital. Many extensive plants have been built without inquiry into local conditions, relying on the Government to buy whatever was made at such a price that dividends could be declared. The Bourses of the Continent swallowed anything with a Russian name, but the inevitable crisis came in, 1899 and 1900, the Government refusing to pay exorbitant prices, and a process of natural selection is now in progress. The situation of many concerns is indicated by the official report of a. French company, which pathetically but almost humorously states that the plant they have built in the lonely forests of the Ural is suffering from "the absence of mines and railways near the works." Naturally, this great crisis has had its effect on the imports of iron and steel, as shown in Table XXVI-A.
Imports of Iron, Steel and Fuel into Russia; tons.
1897 1898 1899 1900
Pig iron, ................... 100,000 113,000 139,000 50,000
Iron .............. . ...... 300000 320000 270,000 97,000
Steel ....................... 90000 Ti'oOO 48,000 20,000
Iron and steel goods ...... Coal ........................ 270,000 2,150,000 280,000 2,500,000 300,000 4000,000 220,000 4,000,000
Coke ...................... 400000 450000 550,000 540,000
The importation of iron and steel fell off owing to the necessity of finding a market for the home production. The imports of coal and coke did not decrease, because they are brought to the plants in Northern Russia and Poland which depend entirely on outside sources of supply.
Everywhere in Russia the iron manufacturer has two troubles: If he is near coal, the ore is uncertain or being rapidly exhausted; if near good ore, there is no fuel. In either event the labor is inefficient, for the men come from the agricultural class and seldom break off connection with their native village, many working in factories only during the winter and going back to the farms in the spring. The Government watches over them with paternal care. No man'may work continuously for twelve hours, and at night the hours must not exceed ten. On days preceding holidays the day work must not be over ten hours, and work must cease at noon the